Brad Benjamin, 22, of Rockford, Ill., defeated Nick Taylor, 21, of Canada, 7 and 6, to become the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links Champion at the 7,289-yard, par-71 Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club.
Benjamin, who led 4-up after 18 holes in the scheduled 36-hole final, applied the pressure to Taylor immediately in the afternoon, winning the 19th hole by hitting his approach shot on the 468-yard par-4 first hole to within 3-feet for birdie, which was conceded by Taylor. Benjamin continued his aggressive play, matching Taylor's birdie on the 621-yard par-5 fifth hole, the 24th of the match, and then surging ahead with a 30-foot birdie putt on the 175-yard par-3 sixth hole to go 6-up on the 25th hole of the match.
Brad Benjamin is the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links Champion. (Robert Walker/USGA)
“That was the start I needed,” said Benjamin. “That was the thing I was most concerned about was going back out, obviously the momentum could go his way. If I can beat him basically 4-up on first 18, sorry, anything could happen. Obviously he's twice the player I am, on paper at least, if not more than that. If I can do that to him, he can do the same.”
Benjamin birdied the 437-yard par-4 11th hole to go 7-up and dormie in the match and then closed out Taylor, 7 and 6, by hitting his tee shot the 164-yard par-3 12th hole to within 8 inches of the hole. When Taylor conceded the putt, the match was over and Benjamin became the 2009 champion.
“I played well the entire week, and to be in the final and lose is definitely disappointing,” said Taylor. “But Brad played unbelievable in the afternoon. Pretty much did to me what I did to the other guys coming in to this match play.”
Taylor, the low amateur at the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park, was the prohibitive favorite entering the final. The stroke play medalist at 6-under-par 136, he had cruised through the match play bracket, needing only a combined 72 holes to win his five previous matches.
Benjamin, though lacking Taylor’s resume, had hit the clutch shots he needed to in the championship just to reach the final. He won his semifinal match by birdieing the 18th hole to win, 1-up, when he hit a 9-iron from 148 yards to 5-feet and made the putt to advance to the final. When asked if he learned something new about himself this week, or whether he had to do something out of the ordinary to win this championship, his answer was succinct.
“I did what I knew I was capable of,” said Benjamin. “It’s that simple.”
Benjamin, who plays left-handed but putts right-handed, became the second left-handed player to win the U.S. Amateur Public Links, after Ralph Howe III in 1988, and the fifth left-hander to win any USGA championship. His victory earns him an exemption into the 2009 U.S. Amateur Championship, which will be conducted at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., August 24-30.
The U.S. Amateur Public Links, established in 1922 for bona fide public course players, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.